Richard Stokes is an accomplished international financial trainer, with over 40 years of experience in accounting, auditing and teaching U.S. GAAP and IFRS to professionals worldwide. Richard worked as an auditor with KPMG in London, Hamburg, and Stockholm for 20 years, running the KPMG Swedish firm as managing partner before establishing his own practice in Hamburg in 1987. Since that time, Richard has specialized in financial training and development, coupled with consulting work for multinationals and auditing firms. In 2001, he co-founded GAAP Seminars, the predecessor organization of GAAP Dynamics, with Mike Walworth.
On the eve of his retirement, I had a chance to sit down and talk with my colleague, mentor, and friend, Richard Stokes, and ask him some questions about his career, the company we founded, and words of wisdom for us and accountants just starting out their careers.
How and why did you get into the training business?
I was given the opportunity to train accountants as part of my previous job with KPMG and discovered how much I enjoyed it, so I decided to do it full-time when I left the firm in 1987.
Along the way you met Mike and, in 2001, went into business together founding GAAP Seminars. After going it alone for 14 years, why did you ask Mike to join you?
I had worked with other professionals before I met Mike and always appreciated sharing the platform with someone else. Mike clearly loved teaching as much as I did, so it was a no-brainer for us to join together and formally start GAAP Seminars. By joining forces, we were better able to serve our clients’ needs.
How has training changed since you first started as a professional trainer back in 1987? How do you see the future for the training industry?
Finance has become far more complicated over the past thirty years, but information is now infinitely more accessible. Trainers no longer need to worry about their students’ access to information about the topic being taught; they now have to think even more about how to teach people to use information properly in order to apply it efficiently and correctly.
What adjectives would you use to describe GAAP Dynamics and its people?
Dedicated, competent, and top-quality.
Why do you think GAAP Dynamics (formerly GAAP Seminars) has been so successful?
The company has always focused on delivering quality learning solutions to our clients. This focus on quality, along with tailoring our products to meet our customers’ needs, has been the predominant reasons for our success.
Over the past 15 years, what have been some of the “highlights” of your career while working at GAAP Seminars?
Throughout the years, I especially enjoyed working on various “high-profile” projects to meet customers’ needs across disciplines, as well as teaching diverse groups, including non-accountants, in countries all over the world.
Specifically, what “challenges” did you encounter along the way?
I encountered very few challenges. Honestly, it was fun all the way!
What words of advice would you give a young accountant working at one of the Big 4 accounting firms that might help them in their careers?
I would advise a young accountant to learn to listen and always be observing. Learn from those that have been there before you and then make it better.
What do you plan to do with all your free time now that you have “retired?”
I intend to spend my free time travelling, gardening, and working for charities.
What are you looking forward to most in retirement?
Not having to keep up with all the latest changes in U.S. GAAP, IFRS, and auditing standards! However, I truly will miss the classroom training and all the people I have come to know throughout the years.
What words of advice would you give GAAP Dynamics with regards to servicing clients, managing people, and operating a successful training company?
Always listen to our customers and do what they want. If our people understand the customer is our top priority, we’ll continue to be a successful training company.
What would you like to say to our clients?
Don’t just go for the cheapest option when deciding about staff development. Go for the most cost-effective solution. But most of all, I would like to say “Thank you” for giving me the opportunity to be able to pursue my love of teaching and for all the kindness and hospitality you have shown me throughout the years.
Mike and others within the company have lovingly referred to you as “The Godfather,” does this bother you?
Not at all, it’s better than “stupid old git”!
Richard Stokes will always be “The Godfather” in our minds and the people at GAAP Dynamics are most grateful for his leadership, mentoring, and kindness shown to us over the past 14 years. From the bottom of our hearts, we want to say “THANK YOU” to Richard for all he has done for this company and for our careers. He has been and will continue to be our friend and we intend to take him up on his offer for advice and wisdom as GAAP Dynamics enters this new chapter of our corporate life.
Richard can still be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.